Peninsular Thinking A conversation about Bremerton, Port Orchard, Poulsbo, Silverdale, Bainbridge Island, Kingston, Manchester, Seabeck, Southworth, Suquamish, Belfair, Keyport, Olalla, Bangor, Hansville, Indianola, Port Gamble, Allyn, Port Ludlow, Gig Harbor and every once in a while something about the good folks who don't have the good fortune to live here.
Several people on Facebook have mentioned a
New York Times article about Doug Whitney, a Port Orchard man
who has a gene mutation that (in most people) causes early onset
Alzheimer’s disease. Whitney, 65, has yet to show symptoms, and
researchers are trying to figure out why.
Whitney’s mother and nine of her siblings, as well as Whitney’s
older brother died of the disease. All began showing symptoms in
“So Mr. Whitney has become Exhibit A in a new direction in
genetics research. After years of looking for mutations that cause
diseases, investigators are now searching for those that prevent
them,” the article states.
The idea of beneficial gene mutations is getting plenty of
attention from the scientific community.
Two Seattle researchers have started “The Resilience Project,”
drawing on large databases to find people, like Whitney, who seem
to have protective genes. They found Whitney after contacting
Washington University (in St. Louis), where a study is under way of
families with a gene, presenilin, that causes early Alzheimer’s.
Whitney joined the study in 2011.
Whitney deferred getting tested for the Alzheimer’s causing gene
until he turned 62. Other researchers have contacted him, as well,
and Whitney, for his part, is happy to contribute to advancing
knowledge of Alzheimer’s, the article states.
So, question for readers: If, based on the medical history of
family members, you knew you might have a disease-causing genetic
mutation, would you get tested and when?
On Sunday we told the story of Maddy
Herring, a local 21-year-old who nearly lost her life in the
Skokomish River. The story itself was certainly worth telling, but
every once in a while the story behind the story is worth revealing
to some degree. That is the case here.
Every morning and every evening we make calls to the local fire
agencies, Washington State Patrol, the coroner’s office and to
Central Communications to ask them and other local police agencies
if anything happened worth reporting. It’s just one way we learn
about things. Other times it’s people calling us, messaging us on
Facebook or Twitter or we hear something on the scanner. It’s not
the only way we learn things, but sometimes it turns into something
newsworthy. The vast majority of times there is nothing new to
report that comes from these calls. But they are worth making
because of the times there is something worth reporting.
On Monday, Aug. 25 it was my turn to make the night calls.
Included on our list of calls are three Bremerton Fire stations. My
recollection is that I called one station and the officer who
answered said there was nothing to report from the department, but
that I ought to talk to Kevin Bonsell at Station 3 because of
something he experienced while out with his family at Staircase the
day before. When I called there and talked to another department
officer I asked if Bonsell was available. I told him I had heard he
had experienced something unique on Sunday and he told me the
After hearing what happened I was eager for someone here to get
the story in the paper for a couple of reasons. One was that there
was a public service element to it that reminded people of the
dangers rivers can pose. The second, though, was that the story had
that element of danger, but ended well for everyone. People showed
up and did what they could and Maddy Herring is alive because of
it. Bonsell said he would see if the family was willing.
My understanding is the Herring family found him again by
reaching out through someone at the Central Kitsap Fire District,
and that word got over to Bremerton through them. No one who was
directly involved was advertising a story. That makes it even more
attractive, because no one was looking for publicity just for
themselves. Bonsell didn’t reach out to me, but once I asked him to
tell the story he saw the public service benefit as well.
It took a few days but eventually Bonsell called me back with
phone numbers for Maddy and her mother. By the time I spoke with
Maddy it was a week and two days after the event. I was hoping I
could get Bonsell to go out to the site to point out where it
happened and talk on video. I had very little hope that Maddy
herself would be willing to go. When I spoke to her, though, she
was up for it, again recognizing the public service aspect of the
story. So we made plans to meet her out there on Friday with a
photographer, Meegan Reid.
The video setting is not far from where it all happened, but
it’s not exactly there. When we first got there she tried to
recognize the spot and could not right away. We eventually figured
that the river was running lower than it was the Sunday almost two
weeks before. So we filmed from a nice place to provide a good
setting for the story. As you can see, Maddy was quite good at
After we finished filming Maddy, Meegan and I began walking back
to our car as Maddy decided to hike further up the trail. Meegan
and I kept thinking that we had missed a turn on the trail so we
hiked a little more than we’d planned before making it back. I
decided to go the ranger’s station and see if we could get an
incident report, which was when Maddy returned from the trail. In
the interim she had found the actual spot where she was stuck and
took some pictures. She said it looked more or less the same as it
had that Sunday, but there would have been no way we could have
gone down there with our cameras. She said seeing it made her heart
race a little and she was careful not to get too close. The other
bonus was the Herrings had left two pair of flip-flops and a
T-shirt behind in all the chaos, and that they were still there two
A man described as a political science professor also played a
role in the rescue. I reached out to several at the different
colleges in the area and struck out. Maddy’s mother, Theresa,
called me on Friday and we spoke that day. I wrote the story and
edited the video that night.
This whole thing came about because of a regular phone call we
make in which we essentially ask, “Anything happening?”
My guess is the crews at the fire stations are not glad we
interrupt their mornings and evenings to ask that question. I’m
always glad when they tell me the calls have been routine. Some of
that is because when the calls are not routine it usually means
something bad happened to someone. The other part is if something
happened it means more work. We’re like NASCAR fans who don’t
necessarily want there to be a wreck, but if there is one we don’t
want to miss it.
Most local fire agencies, the ones who still welcome our calls,
have been very good about sharing what’s happening with us. Maybe
it’s because they see the public service element in what they tell
us. I’m sure sometimes they get disappointed in how we write what
happened. That’s the risk, I suppose. But I think the public is
well served in that relationship. And it’s because of that
relationship that we were able to tell Maddy Herring’s story.
This is how it feels. Three young people in Kitsap County died
within a month of one another.
On July 4, Josh Osborn, 17, of South Kitsap, was on an outing
with friends when he fell into the Ohanapecosh River. His body was
recovered on July 28.
On July 14, JJ Hentz, 12, also of South Kitsap, was found
floating in Island Lake. He died two days later at Mary Bridge
Children’s Hospital in Tacoma.
Jenise Wright’s parents reported her missing on Aug. 3. The last
time the 6-year-old was seen was around 10 p.m. the night before.
On Aug. 7 her body was found, partially submerged in a muddy bog
near Steele Creek Trailer Park in East Bremerton, where her family
lives. On Aug. 9, Gabriel Gaeta, a friend of the Wright family, was
arrested on suspicion of raping and killing Jenise.
On Saturday, Josh Osborn and Jenise Wright, will be mourned at
memorial services a couple of hours apart. Both are open to the
Jenise’s service is at 1 p.m. at the Silverdale Stake Center,
9256 Nels Nelson Road NW.
Jenise was outgoing,
always at the center of activity at the mobile home park. She
loved the colors pink and purple.
The Wright family is accepting donations to help offset expenses.
Donations can be made online at a gofundme account or at Chase Bank
branches, under the “Jenise Wright donation account.”
Josh Osborn was “every parents’ dream” according to his
obituary, written by his family. “He was
kind, handsome, smart, funny, but most of all he had the biggest,
most loving heart. Josh loved life and he lived every day to
its fullest. He had many passions and dreams.”
A memorial for Josh is planned for 3 p.m. Saturday at the South
Kitsap High School gym. In honor of Josh, the family asks that you
wear your Seahawks or South Kitsap gear.
Josh fell into the turbulent, glacially fed Ohanapecosh River on
July 4 during an outing with friends. Warm weather that led to snow
melt made the river especially high, hampering search efforts. On
Sunday, however, the Port Orchard teen’s body was spotted by
kayakers, who alerted authorities.
But getting to him was no easy matter.
Josh lay in a foot of water between a mile and a mile-and-a-half
from where he fell in, according to Roger Beckett of Olympic
Mountain Rescue, who got the call about 2 a.m. Sunday from the
state’s Emergency Management
Division. Beckett coordinates rescue efforts for the group.
Typically, a mountain rescue group from Tacoma would have been
called first, since they are closer, Beckett said. But because
rescue groups are staffed by volunteers, the matter of who responds
depends on who can most quickly rally a group of people with the
technical skills required for the situation.
Josh’s body was reported to be in or near a rocky gorge kayakers
call the “elbow room,” a particularly challenging stretch of the
river, with narrow chutes of foamy white water and deadfall trees
littering the route. Beckett expected rescuers would need to rappel
into the gorge.
“This isn’t a place where anybody goes unless they go down to
fish and kayak. It’s a rugged part of the river system,” Beckett
This picture, courtesy of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office,
gives a visual of the river.
By 8 a.m. Monday a team of six Olympic Mountain Rescue members
arrived at Packwood to receive a briefing from the Lewis County
Sheriff’s Office, which was leading the search and recovery.
Beckett did not go along, but he got a briefing later from team
members. They split into three groups from the base of operations
near the intersection of highways 12 and 123 and combed the
riverbank at the bottom of a steep grassy ravine, according to
Finally, they located Josh and were able to reach him, placing
him in a stretcher, which they lifted to the road in several
pitches, using a 600-foot rope.
Olympic Mountain Rescue, established in 1959, is made up of 25
to 30 members familiar with alpine climbing and specially trained
for rescue and recovery in rough terrain, where even first
responders are hard put to go.
OMR members participate in a couple dozen rescue or recovery
efforts most years, and they took part in the search for missing
outdoors writer Karen Sykes in June on Mt. Rainier. Sykes, an
died of hypothermia on the mountain. The group did not
rescue Tuesday of a 25-year-old Bremerton man who fell down an
embankment under High Steel Bridge on the Skokomish River.
Josh’s mother Jennifer Osborn sent a statement on behalf of the
family following the candlelight vigil, which I share here with
you, along with information about fundraisers for the family
“There really are no words to express the pain our family is
feeling. A piece of our hearts is gone and no amount of time will
ever heal that.
“Josh was the most amazing son who touched everybody he met in
some way. He lived his life to the fullest and put 100 percent into
everything he did. His family, girlfriend Gianna and his friends
were the most important things in his life. He held those
relationships close to his heart and was fiercely protective of
those he loved.
“His other love in life was football, he ate breathed slept
football. I remember how excited and proud we all were when he was
one of only a few sophomores to make the varsity roster at South
Kitsap High School.
“Our time with Josh will always be cherished and the sadness we
feel because of everything we will miss out on is unbearable. He
meant so much to so many people and will be deeply missed by all
who had the priveledge of knowing and loving him.
“His dad Brian, brother Jacob stepmom Mary Jo and myself would
like to say thank you for all the love and support we have received
from family, friends and the community. You have lifted us up in
our time of need and for that we are forever grateful.
“Josh’s legacy will forever live on in our hearts. His sweet
soul and beautiful smile will never be forgotten. We all feel his
presence every minute of every day.
“Thank you all that came to the candlelight vigil. It was the
most beautiful thing I have ever experienced, and in that moment,
as much as our hearts are hurting, we felt a sense of peace and
“RIP my sweet little man cub. Our angel here on earth now our
angel in heaven. No words can ever express how much you were loved
but I know you knew that every day you were on this earth.”
— Faith Fulsoul, a family friend, is hosting an online fundraiser
at GoFundMe.com, www.gofundme.com/b4bag8. The goal is $25,000. The
site has more than 100,000 shares on Facebook.
— A spaghetti feed fundraiser is planned 4-8 p.m. Sunday at
Christian Life Center, 1780 Lincoln Ave. SE, Port Orchard. It is $6
a plate with $1 a ticket raffle.
A car wash is planned 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 26 at The Frozen One
frozen yogurt shop, 1800 Mile Hill Drive, Port Orchard.
— The Route 16 Running Club has included a memorial for Josh
Osborn in beneficiaries of its annual Miracle Run 5K on Aug. 9 in
Gig Harbor. At www.miraclerun5k.com, click “online registration” to
designate a donation. The run begins at 9 a.m. at South Kitsap
Regional Park, 2841 SE Lund Ave., Port Orchard.
We’ve received no additional word on the search for Josh Osborn,
a 17-year-old Port Orchard resident who
slipped in the Ohanapecosh River near Mt. Rainier on July 4th
and is presumed dead.
The river is six feet above normal for this time of year. Search
parties will resume looking for Osborn when the water subsides.
In the meantime, word of Osborn’s tragic accident has spread
like wildfire among his wide circle of friends and acquaintances.
Josh’s brother Jake told me yesterday that Josh reached out even to
people he didn’t know well, and he could always cheer people
A Kitsap Sun reader who commented on our story yesterday linked
to a fundraiser for Josh’s
family hosted by Faith Fulsol on gofundme.com. The goal is
$25,000, with more than $6,000 raised so far.
Friends and family of Hal Champeness plan a memorial from 1 p.m.
to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Old Town Bistro, 3388 NW Byron St.
Champeness, 90, originally from Bainbridge Island, was a
local music legend who died in a house fire in Poulsbo April
10. He played stand-up bass and sang with local bands, including
Don Alverson & Friends.
At an informal gathering at the Old Town Bistro shortly after
his death, Champeness was lauded as “the little Giant with the
sharp wit, golden voice and seductive smile.”
The pictures below the picture of Hal are from that
Below, you can read a detailed biography of Champeness by his
friend Gerald Elfendahl. Campeness was born Aug. 9, 1924. He lived
on Bainbridge. He started out singing and playing violin at school.
On the football team, he was a 5-foot-3-inch tall, 140-pound
quarterback, who earned “most inspirational” award.
In 1940, Champeness heard of a band that needed a bass player,
and for the remainder of his life, he and that instrument were
“joined at the hip,” as Elfendahl says.
Champeness served as a Navy radio operator in the Pacific
Theater during World War II. Later, after the war, he joined up
with Stan Boreson, a Seattle entertainer known as the “King of
Later yet, he continued his musical career playing and singing
at Whiskey Creek Steak House and other venues. His CD “The Champ”
was issued in 2010.
He was married and widowed three times, and he leaves behind his
son Hal Jr.
Even after he finally set aside his bass, Champeness continued
singing, mostly at the Bistro, where he and Hal Jr. stopped in
Anyone attending the memorial is asked to bring instruments,
voices, cookies and memories of “The Champ,” whose own voice at the
event will surely be missed.
* Photos, except the picture of Hal Champeness, courtesy of Brei
Aily Blaikie, the woman who was first on the scene of a fatal
crash on Baby Doll Road Dec. 16, attended today’s memorial.
Family and friends of Rebekah Barrett and Shanaia Bennett
gathered on Baby Doll to remember the girls (who were best friends)
and to place roadside signs in their memory urging people to drive
On the night of the collision, Blaikie ran down the road after
hearing the Toyota Camry Rebekah was driving racing with another
car at high speed and the sickening crash that followed. Blaikie
arrived at the car, which had collided with a tree, and held the
two girls as they faded out of consciousness, saying a prayer for
them. A third girl, who was in the back seat, survived.
Blakie, a young woman herself, left in shock after aid arrived.
The next morning she was out on the road staring at the scene. The
memory of the girls’ last moments haunted Blakie. She had
nightmares and sometimes hallucinated, thinking she saw them in her
house and carried on conversations with them.
She often walked down to the scarred tree, where someone had set up
a makeshift memorial. For hours she would lie on the bench. One
day, she said, a man came to the site and they talked for a long
time. She later learned he was Rebekah’s father, John Barrett.
Blaikie met the two families and has developed a bond forged
through the tragedy. Slowly, she is healing emotionally. But she
wanted to do something for the Bennetts and Barretts.
Blakie is selling memorial wristbands with both girls’ names, a
music note for Shanaia and a soccer ball for Rebecca. Any money she
raises will help the family with expenses they’ve incurred and for
memorials like the roadside signs.
The bracelets cost $4 each. To order one, call Blaikie at (360)
Family and friends of two teenage girls killed in a single car
collision Dec. 16 on Baby Doll Road will gather at the site
Wednesday, as Kitsap County installs memorial signs commemorating
the crash victims.
Rebekah Faye Barrett, 18, of South Kitsap, and Shanaia Rose
Bennett, 17, of Gig Harbor, died on the scene, after the Toyota
Camry Barrett was driving skidded of the road and slammed into a
tree. A third girl, 17, survived the crash.
Witnesses reported that Barrett had been racing with a 1997 Toyota
pickup, driven by her boyfriend Robert A. Rundquist. Rundquist, 20,
of South Kitsap faces two counts of vehicular homicide in Kitsap
County Superior Court. His trial is set for May.
The signs, purchased with donations through the county’s memorial
sign program, will urge safe driving.
“If either one of those signs saves one life, it will be worth it,”
said Rhonda Barrett, Rebekah’s mother.
Anyone is welcome to attend the memorial from noon to 1 p.m. on
Baby Doll Road. The road will be closed during the event.
Man does not live by bread alone, so the saying goes. In this
case, flowers filled the void.
I happened on this post shared Thursday on Facebook by South
Kitsap Helpline Executive Director Jennifer Hardison:
“The following story is one example of why I love working at the
South Kitsap Helpline…our fantastic staff and volunteers always
seem to go above and beyond for those in need!”
The food bank, it seems, recently got a call, from a woman whose
mother had passed away.
“They were having a small memorial for her today at a local park
and she was so worried there would be no flowers as she couldn’t
afford to purchase them,” Hardison said.
The woman asked if Helpline could donate any flowers from their
greenhouse nursery, the organization’s garden/revenue source. Not
much was in bloom but for some dahlias in the garden.
Volunteer Mary-cathern Edwards and another woman, Cathy Deisler
gathered flowers, ferns and herbs from the nursery as well as from
their neighbors, who donated to the cause. The two women put
together seven cut flower arrangements in glass vases.
The woman was “absolutely overwhelmed and so very, very grateful,”
The woman did not care to be interviewed for this blog post.